“Everything is simpler than you think and at the same time more complex than you imagine.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Journal, 3 December 2011. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
THE CREW IN KL.
When arriving to Melaka from Singapore, I was thrilled to discover a slight breeze in the air which made my visit to the city almost refreshing.
In Kuala Lumpur, however, there is no breeze. The air is hot, polluted and sticky with car fumes that wrap around your skin and lungs like cobweb.
Tarynn decided to join Cam and I for the weekend, so we ended up driving all the way to KL and staying at her parents’ place. The plan for Saturday night? A tour around town organised by the local CSers, followed by dinner and drinks. Debbie, whom I had recently met in Singapore but lives in the Malaysian capital, also joined us.
Of the people I met that night, two are of particular mention: one is Piet, a Dutch traveller who teamed-up with us to explore KL and its surroundings the following days; and the other one is a Muslim girl whose name I never learned (or forgot; either way I could not find it in my journal).
What was interesting about this CSer? Well, for one thing she couldn’t eat any of the food from the restaurant where we decided to have dinner, because they also cooked pork there – therefore all meals they produced were considered impure by her religious standards. She left to get some food somewhere else and rejoined us a few minutes later with some pita bread she had bought. That bread was her dinner, as it was the only halal food she managed to find nearby.
What really stroke my curiosity, as she afterwards explained to me, is that she couldn’t really host or be hosted by anyone, as it was not proper for a young single woman to welcome strangers into her household or indulge in their hospitality, although those activities are at the core of the CS community.
The only thing she could do, the only loophole she found where she could contribute to the community without feeling she was disrespecting her Muslim identity, was to participate at the events organised by the CSers or give visitors a tour around the city.
I confess I’m remarkably naïve on what concerns Islam and the Muslim lifestyle. My only previous contact with the culture was through my friend Idil, but having spent a lifetime in London she’s as liberal as they come. (Vaguely remember her complaining about me putting chorizo in a meal I prepared for one of our dinner parties – sorry about that, babe.)
But still… This all sounds quite strange. Religion itself is a funny thing. It can empower so much and at the same time present so many restraints, it’s often hard to know which stand to take. And even then, it all boils down to an individual decision on what’s truly meaningful and important to you.
But I digress.
On our way back to the car I noticed cockroaches, rats and people randomly sleeping on the streets, and some volunteers distributing food to homeless people… I guess big cities will always be big cities.
At the bar, the music was so loud that at some point the crew and I started laughing about how hard it was to even hear each other. We stayed out for a few hours and later Tarynn and I returned to her parents’ place to rest.
Can’t wait to make my way to the islands and have a swim in the fresh Andaman Sea.
• Tarynn, CS Ambassadress of Melaka! for her hospitality and charm.
• Cam, for his wit and constant bantering. (Only a few months since I’ve left London and I’m already missing the dry British humour.)
• Piet, for his life stories and insights.
• The Muslim girl, for reminding me I have a lot to learn… I have a feeling this journey is going to rock my world.